Follow Pelosi or Follower Pelosi?

By David Swanson

Larry Everest made an interesting comment on a panel we did in Memphis last weekend. He said that if Nancy Pelosi, who claims her top priority is ending the war and who claims to support democracy, were to ask people to come to Washington, D.C., on January 27th to march against the war, probably 20 million people would come. Such an action by Pelosi would not require that she take any controversial position, merely that she lead.

Rev. Glenda Hope sent around an Email that was forwarded to me and a lot of other people. She has a ministry in Pelosi's district and recently met with Pelosi's office. Hope was joined in the meeting by the President of the University of San Francisco (a Catholic priest), the pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church (the largest church in San Francisco), the Senior Rabbi of the largest synagogue in San Francisco (Congregation Emanu-el), and Richard Smoak, a Presbyterian minister and founder/director of San Francisco Network Ministries (a 34-year-old ministry among the poor in San Francisco's Tenderloin). They met for 45 minutes with Pelosi's District Director Dan Bernal and Deputy District Director Melanie Nutter in Nancy Pelosi's office.

Here's the Email:

Subject: RE: Meeting with Pelosi Staff in SF

I began the conversation by saying flatly that I believe we must cut off the funding immediately, as that is the only effective way to begin the process of withdrawal of troops and US disengagement. All of the others agreed. Dan, her Dist. Director, argued that the votes are not there for that, even if Nancy voted "no", and such a cutoff would be widely regarded as "not supporting the troops." I stated that I believe Nancy has enormous influence and others would follow her lead. Also that "if something keeps being said then in the mind of the larger public it becomes true." Therefore, Nancy should quit saying that and tell the truth: that we are not supporting the troops by leaving them there but are only making targets of them more and for longer. Also said that I know there is enough money already in the pipeline to continue the war for 6-7 months and that is enough to make a continuing but losing effort to prepare Iraq to take over and to bring our people home.

Dan said Pelosi, Murtha, et al are preparing strings to be attached to the supplemental and other legislation which "will have the force of law" and will force a disengagement. Wouldn't Rev. Hope accept that approach rather than cutting off the funding? I replied that I do not believe anything will work other than cutting off the funding. Dan labeled that a "symbolic gesture," a response which I found mind boggling. Rabbi Pearce spoke eloquently from the position of the Hebrew and contemporary prophets, stating that there are times when one must quit the "political plotting, psyching out, and maneuvering and take a stand: do the right thing." Dan replied with an insulting little lecture about the difference between being an activist and working within the system. (All of us have been working for social justice a lot longer than he has been around. For example, I am 70 and my first involvements were in the Deep South in the Civil Rights Movement)

This went on about 45 minutes which was astonishing and I think one of our number might have been won over to the gradualist approach, though he may have changed back since recent events. The rest of us held firm.

I took in a letter to Pelosi, who I know personally, and the dep. Dist. dir. (who said little but later indicated that she agreed with me) said: "Oh, good!" and snatched it up.

We also talked, myself especially since I have worked in the Tenderloin for 34 years, about the domestic impact with reduced funding for programs such as our own SafeHouse for Homeless Women Leaving Prostitution (ll% cut in HUD funds in the last 2 years). And I spoke about the memorial services I do for homeless people and people living in the TL, noting that a large number of them are veterans (a particular concern for Pelosi) suffering from PTSD, homelessness, addiction and mental illness related to combat. I said we expect a "surge" of additional vets onto our streets now with similar afflictions and the longer we stay in Iraq the more there will be. I noted the absence of effective and adequate treatment for them. I also said that Nancy knows I work with drug addicts and I have learned that no matter how passionate my pleas, how eloquent and clear my reasoning, or how dire my threats, if I keep giving an active user money he will continue using. I connected that with cutting off the funding.

If we were going today, I would also talk about the number of Iraqi refugees, esp. middle class people who are essential to "building a democracy." I hope this doesn't sound like we were ignoring what is happening to the country and the people of Iraq. we were trying not to spread out over everything but to stay focussed on cutting off funds.

NB: in Wednesday's SF Chronicle there will be an OpEd piece by Cong. Lynn Woolsey. You should alert all your email contacts to read this.

Oh, Dan also said "we need progressive Christians to get involved in speaking out against this war." I pointed out that he should have said "and progressive Jews, such as Rabbi Pearce" (!). I said that I preach this every chance I get at a pulpit or other speaking engagement and have contacted people across the country urging them to speak out for cutting off the funds.

Amazingly, he also said "Nancy doesn't need and isn't helped by demonstrations, etc., by people calling for cutting off the funding. She thinks their plan is the only workable one and, again, cutting off funding will be widely perceived as not supporting the troops."

I could draw conclusions and strategy from all this but I think you can, too. Thanks for your efforts. Keep the faith!!

Rev. Glenda Hope.

So, Pelosi claims to support majority positions that are unpopular within the Beltway (like ending the war), but she opposes demonstrations. Pelosi claims to be blocked by the idea that cutting off the funds for the war somehow hurts the troops we would thereby bring safely home, but she is herself a chief proponent of that nonsense. Pelosi wants to end the war, but wants to fund it. Pelosi is the new leader but considers leadership merely symbolic. Can we get our votes back? Maybe we should have taken a vacation on November 7 instead of voting. Maybe we should all march on January 27th BECAUSE Pelosi doesn't want us to:

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